Arsenal confirmed a top four position in the Premier League on the last day of the season with a 1-0 at St. James' Park against Newcastle.

It was only two season previous, at the same ground, that Arsenal had let in four second half goals to relinquish the 4-0 lead they’d built in the first. 

The season's stand out feature, apart from Theo Walcott's goals and Santi Cazorla's attractive introduction to English football was the solidity in defence. 

In fact after the disastrous defensive performance at White Hart Lane, they conceded only five goals in ten high-pressure games in the run in. 

This was the sort of defensive fortitude that the team produced at the start of the season, and is something that is credited to the influence of assistant manager, Steve Bould - himself a no-nonsense defender.

Many times in the past the team had tried to pass its way out of trouble and lost possession to be punished by the opposition. But what came to the fore in the last two months was a safety first attitude where the onus was on getting the job done, even if it meant sacrificing the attacking brand of football the manager loves his team to produce. 

This fortitude was built upon a solid pair in the centre of defence, who were aided marvellously by Mikel Arteta and Aaron Ramsey harrying back, tackling and breaking up play, and somewhat by the full backs.

Laurent Koscielny scored the goal that took the team to a 16th consecutive Champions League position. He had done the same the last year too in another nervy away game. His performances since the middle of March were inspirational and effective. At some of the key moments in the run in he stepped up and produced the goods, none more so than at a key moment in the penultimate match of the season against Wigan Athletic when he produced an acrobatic hooked clearance to prevent the visitors taking the lead and Arsenal went on to score three more to win the match - a fixture they had lost last season in a similarly tense run in. 

The French defender was the leader of the defence, something the man he replaced in the starting line up could not step up to become after promising to. Thomas Vermaelen was so error prone and poor in his performances that he could make only one start in the last two months of the season, and that too due to Mertesacker's suspension.

That brings us to Per Mertesacker - adoringly called "BFG" by the fans, he stepped up this season and was ever present in a defence that conceded the second least in the league. 

After an indifferent start to life in the Premier League in the 2011 - 12 season, the German has improved considerably. Pace and sleekness of movement are not his strengths; in fact he looks clumsy most of the times. 

His strengths are his height, awareness and positioning - these he used effectively in 33 starts in this, only his second season in a tough league. He also scored thrice in the league, including home and away against Tottenham.

If this solidity in defence and attitude displayed at the end of the season can be replicated at the start of the next, and continued throughout it may well signal the end of the trophy drought in the 2013/14 season.


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Topics:
#Laurent Koscielny
#Per Mertesacker
#Premier League
#Arsenal
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